Tag Archives: southwest

Southwest Max 7s Awaiting Release

The 737 Max 8 has been the best seller of the Max product line.  The Max 7 has barely sold at all and Boeing even had to redesign it to be a shrink of the Max 8 rather than the rework of the -700 that it was originally intended to be.  Southwest and WestJet have bought them but they are about the only ones.  I guess production examples have started to come off the line during the grounding.  When you go around the back of Renton, amongst the stored Southwest jets are a bunch of the Max 7s.  I guess certification and delivery of these will be something intended to follow on closely from the return to service of the Max 8 and Max 9 jets.

Down By the Lake at Love Field

Bachman Lake sits at one end of Dallas Love Field.  Early one morning, I decided to see whether the trail alongside the lake made for a good spot to get some shots.  The traffic at Love Field is heavily skewed towards Southwest 737s so I wasn’t expecting a lot of variety but instead wanted to see what angles I could get.  It also would be nice to have a stroll along the lake in the morning light.

There are two runways at Love Field so you have a bit of a guess as to which one will be used at any one time but that is fine.  The view across the lake as the jets come to the northerly runway provides a nice wider view of things.  The near runway allows getting together front quarter shots or to go right underneath for a different perspective.  While most arrivals were Southwest jets, I did see a couple of corporate jets while I was there so there was a bit of variety.

Max 8 Departs Just Before Grounding

Paul and I were in Vegas for Red Flag but the early morning is also a good time to shoot at McCarran International.  The morning light is ideal for the north/south runways and, with the wind playing ball, you can get the iconic McCarran shots of jets taking off with the weird and wonderful hotel buildings behind them.  Where else will you get a pyramid and the Empire State Building in the background.  Southwest has a big presence at McCarran and we saw a string of their jets head out including one Max8.  We watched it climb out little realizing that the grounding order would be coming within hours or even minutes.  Whether the jet continued to its destination or turned around, we don’t know but that was its last commercial flight for a while.

Lightroom 8.2 Detail Enhancer

Updates to Lightroom come along relatively regularly and they tend to include new features along with fixes and performance tweaks.  The latest update, Lightroom 8.2, includes a new addition called Detail Enhancer.  This is a feature that is designed to provide some better small-scale detail as part of the raw conversion process.  It creates a new DNG file based on a more complex calculation of the demosaicing of the sensor data.

I saw some videos about it and figured it wasn’t going to be of much use for the type of thing I am working on.  However, it did trigger one possible area of interest.  The algorithms are supposed to be designed to make better calculations around the different color pixels that sensors have.  Sensors are set up in a Bayer Pattern where different color sensitive sensors occupy different pixel spaces.  They each record in one color and then software interpolates between them to create colors for each pixel irrespective of which color was originally recorded at that location.

In a post from a while back, I mused on the way in which the colors of the Southwest Livery and the registration clashed and seemed to provide a distorted image even when everything around them was sharp.  I was pondering whether this was artifacting caused by the different colors and the way the sensor was recording the data.  If this was the case, maybe this new functionality would change the way things were rendered.  I dug out a few of the shots that had previously demonstrated this effect and ran the process on them.  These shots show the wide shot, the original rendering of the close up and the revised rendering using Detail Enhancer.

As you can see from the comparisons, Detail Enhancer does not suddenly render a perfect registration for the aircraft.  However, to my eye at least, it does appear as if the results are noticeably better then they were with the original rendering.  For completeness, the original rendering is done with the latest process version of Adobe’s raw converter to make things as fair as possible.  It does appear to make a difference.  This makes me think my theory about whiny things looked wrong might have some merit, even if this update has not fully resolved things.

Exodus of Southwest Jets

The failure of an engine on a Southwest 737 that sadly resulted in the death of a passenger caused a major review of the fleet of 737s.  Inspections were identified for the engines in the affected range and everyone was scrambling to find facilities in which to carry out the checks.  ATS at Paine Field is one of Southwest’s suppliers and they took in a number of the jets.  Towards the end of the fly day that Paine Field was having, three Southwest jets emerged from ATS’s facility.  They were towed to the north end of the field.

Here they were started up and they took it in turns to taxi down to where we were and then depart.  One of the jets was an 800 series and may not have bee affected by the inspection but could have been at ATS for other work.  The 700s were quite possibly part of the inspection process.  After a day of light traffic and warbirds, the appearance of three Southwest 737s and their subsequent departures made for a change of pace.

Max Development and Production Jets

Boeing has completed flight testing of the first version of the 737 Max family, the Max 8.  The Max 9 is currently in flight test and I posted shots of one of those aircraft here.  While some additional flight testing will be carried out on the Max 8, the test fleet is now done.  In due course, these aircraft will be refurbished and sold on to customers.  In the meantime, new production jets are being built for delivery – except when it comes to Southwest.

As a result of a crewing issue, Southwest is delaying taking its jets until they have removed the 737-300 fleet from service.  Consequently, Boeing is building them but not delivering them.  There are a number parked up in the parking lot at Boeing Field and some are still sitting at Renton.  Engines aren’t fitted since this is one way to keep the cost down pending delivery.  They will be fitted and flown nearer the delivery date.

The flight line of these dormant Max 8s sits alongside the municipal part of the airport.  I created a panorama of the jets which you can zoom and pan around below.

Southwest Scimitars and the Inaccuracy of Online Truths

Online forums can be a great source of information.  They can also be full of rubbish.  With the introduction of the split scimitar tips on the 737 fleets, Southwest was an early adopter on their 800 series jets.  However, I read that they had not been happy with performance and had stopped adopting them.  They definitely weren’t going to have them on the 700 series.  Above is a 700 series with split scimitars.  A number of airframes have now been fitted including this one so I guess those people were not the most accurate source of info!

Sensor De-mosaicing and Southwest Colors

I have been pondering the way in which the method by which digital images are captured is affected by what is being photographed.  As part of my workflow, I render 1:1 versions of the images and then quickly weed out the ones that are not sharp.  This needs you to be able to see some detail in the shot that shows whether the sharpness is there.  I have found that, if a Southwest Airlines 737 is in the new color scheme, something odd happens.

Digital image sensors actually capture one of three colors.  Each pixel is sensitive to a certain color – either red, green or blue – courtesy of a filter.  They colors are arranged on the sensor in a pattern called a Bayer pattern.  The camera then carries out calculations based on what the pixels around each location see to calculate what the actual color should be for each location.  This process is known as de-mosaicing.  It can be a simple averaging but more complex calculations have been developed to avoid strange artifacts.

When I photograph the new Southwest scheme, something strange occurs around the N number on the rear fuselage.  It looks very blotchy, even when every other part of the airframe looks sharp and clear.  I am wondering whether the color of the airframe and the color of the registration digits are in some way confusing the de-mosaicing algorithm and resulting in some odd elements to the processed image that weren’t there in real life.  If any of you have photographed this color scheme, can you see whether you had something similar and, if you did or didn’t, let me know what camera you were shooting with so we can see if it is manufacturer specific or not.

The Unusual Oakland Approach

Over the last few years I have flown in and out of Oakland more times than I can recall.  It has been my transit point for the majority of my travels.  A recent return brought me a new experience there though.  The airport is in two halves.  There is a main runway alongside the bay which is used by the airliners and is often the departure runway for the bizjets.  Then there are two further runways that are over near the old airport infrastructure.  These are used by light aircraft and for the arrival of bizjets.  (There is another intersecting runway but that doesn’t factor in this story.)

The normal approach brings you across the shoreline and over the water on the approach.  The other runways are on a different alignment and the approach comes over the local towns. I was looking out of the window and filming a hyperlapse.  I was a bit confused as I was seeing bits of San Leandro that I don’t normally see and we didn’t pass Hayward Airport.  We continued to descend over land and it was pretty clear we were not heading for the normal runway.  Sure enough we touched down on the old part of the airport prior to taxiing back and all the way across through the freight area back to the terminal.  I watched jets depart from the runway we had just landed on as well as from the normal runway so I have no idea what was going on.  I doubt I will experience this again anytime soon.

Trying to do Something Different with a Southwest 737

AE7I9870.jpgIf you want to go with a rather easily achieved photo, a shot of a Southwest 737 would seem to be about as common as they get in the US.  I was staying in a hotel near Midway recently and, after dinner, I decided to see if I could get something a little different to my normal shots of a plane I spend a lot of time sitting inside!  I wasn’t hampered by some rather helpful weather conditions.

AE7I9950.jpgI was close to the approach path so I wandered off to find what line worked best.  My best results came from two spots.  One was directly on the flightpath.  The other was slightly offset to one side.  At this location, the planes are just short of the field so are pretty low.  I include a couple of shots that show the rooflines of some of the houses to give you an idea of the surroundings.  The shots from under the nose are interesting but there is only so much you get from that angle.  I was pleased with a few of the, but I did not spend a lot of time in this spot.

AE7I9526.jpgBeing offset provided a more interesting angle.  I only had one lens with me so I was a little limited in what I could try by having a longer focal length.  Being full frame does now give me a bit more width at the short end of the zoom though.  Therefore, I could get some shots from almost underneath that provide a slightly more dynamic angle.

AE7I9890.jpgSince it was evening, the light was getting better and better.  What certainly helped was that there was a hint of storm activity in the distance and some clouds were bubbling up.  They made for a far more interesting backdrop than the empty sky.  Overall, this was a pretty satisfying evening.  I did get some other arrivals that while I was there and I will possibly give them their own post at some time.